Words by Mary Alayne B. LongWhat are your thoughts on kids and technology?
It depends. First of all, access needs to be limited in age appropriate ways. And with very few exceptions, I see no reason for a toddler to be looking at hand held screens. However, a four year old could benefit from educational games and might even be allowed supervised time to watch a short program as a treat. Young children should never be left unsupervised with hand held devices, and parents must resist the temptation to use them as pacifiers to make their own lives easier. I also have a firm policy that any child who’s still on my payroll is not allowed to have social media accounts I can’t access. Don’t like it? Buy your own phone and pay the bill. In addition, we all need to remember that phones and/or iPads are never appropriate at the table—regardless of your age.
Where are good places to travel with young kids?
This may not be what you want to hear, but I think travel for children who aren’t weaned and potty trained should be very limited. Of course, there are certainly exceptions, but I think four to five is a good age to start. You want them to remember the trip and any younger than that you’re pushing your luck. Don’t feel badly about taking older children on trips while little folks stay home with someone they love and you trust. They will have a better time in familiar surroundings, and you’ll be better able to enjoy yourself on the trip as well. As far as a destination, that all depends on your child. I have one who adored Disney and another who would have much rather prowled around a civil war battle field or fort. The truth is, children are pretty easily entertained. It’s the grown-ups who usually turn everything into a spectacle. So don’t feel pressure to take big, pricey vacations. A change of scenery—even when it’s close to home—will oftentimes suffice.
How do you deal with the family when they start getting irritable during a long road trip?
Plan ahead. If you’re traveling with young children, be sure you have plenty of games and snacks and movies to watch. Sticker books are great too. Plan your pit stops strategically so everyone can get out and stretch from time to time. Avoid big mega-store truck stops and go for something off the beaten path. Small towns are great places to stop where you can always count on finding quaint shops and hometown cafes, and there’s always a park where the children can play for a few minutes while the grown ups sit and relax at a picnic table. Once you’re back on the road, don’t ever underestimate the amount of fun to be had by a good old fashioned game of I Spy. It was always our favorite.
How do I fill my time once I retire?
My husband is an expert on this one, so I asked him. He says the first six months you go crazy doing all the fun things you feel like you missed out on while you were working all those years. But it’s like anything else—once the “new” wears off, all the fun things don’t seem so fun any more and it can take some time to find a groove. You’ll also learn when most of your friends still work, you can’t always find somebody to join you on your escapades. In the long run, you will have to make an effort to find things to occupy your time. He loves to help others so he volunteers at a food bank and is always looking for other ways to serve the community. But trust me, he still has plenty of time to have more fun than the law should allow.
How do I maintain a close friendship with a friend who moved to a different city?
My best friend and I have been BFFs for over thirty years and we’ve never lived in the same city. It’s true! Sometimes we talk every day, sometimes once a week and sometimes once a month. The key is, we always pick up right where we left off, and it never feels like we’ve skipped a beat. If a friendship is real, distance won’t matter. You won’t have to force it. And it won’t ever feel like something you’re required to be a part of. When you choose each other for the long haul, everything falls into place—I promise.
I have such a hard time getting going in the morning. How do I start a good morning routine?
They key to a good morning is good, quality sleep the night before. It is much harder to get going if you haven’t rested well. Don’t take your phone to bed with you, and charge it in another room if possible. Once you’re up, get right out of bed and make the bed. You’re less likely to go back down for the count if your room looks neat. Then, stay away from your phone as long as possible (especially social media) and take the first chance you get to breathe some fresh air, feel the sunshine on your face, and give thanks to God for another day. And ditch the caffeine—It’s a crutch that ends up making your body out of sync. You’ll fare much better listening to your own personal rhythm, and you’ll end up feeling better too.